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Compartmentalizing that works

Lately, life has been a challenge, largely due to an organization I’m currently involved in.

This kind of thing happens to every one of us from time to time, and yet we still have obligations. We still need to find a way to get through our day well, and in my case, be 100% present for my clients and family.

This is where the ability to compartmentalize comes in. In Psychology 101 – way back in the ice ages for me – I learned that compartmentalization was a bad thing – that people used it to avoid addressing issues that needed to be addressed. While that’s as true now as it was then, there’s also a good, healthy side to this tool because it help can us do the opposite of avoiding tough issues, by deliberately setting them aside until we can focus on them undisturbed.

For instance, imagine that you just learned that your beloved dog was in an accident and was getting emergency surgery at the vets. Meantime, in half an hour, you’re expected to present a plan to your executive that is critical to the business you’re in and that you’ve been labouring over for some time. If you’re able to put aside your concern over your pet for the time needed to deliver your presentation, that would be a good thing. First, it would free your mind to focus on the presentation and the people in the room. Second, once you were done there, you could focus entirely on getting to – and being with – your pet without worrying over what you might have missed at that all-important meeting.

Here’s a way to do exactly that – it’s called the Container Exercise (my version), which I learned in training as an EMDR practitioner.

  • Identify the pain: First, to help you learn this method, think of something that is causing you some mild amount of pain or anxiety. If you’re able to, scan your body so that you can feel the pain it’s causing. It may be a tensing in your chest or a tightening at your solar-plexus. It might be a feeling of nausea, or a stiff neck or jaw. Whatever it is, wherever it is, see if you can identify it. If you aren’t able to, then name the worry or mental pain it’s causing.
  • Create a container: Then, imagine a container that could safely contain the pain. For my imagined container, I include a one-way entry so that whatever I place in there isn’t able to escape before I let it out. This container can be any size and be made of anything you can imagine.
  • Transfer the pain to the container: Now, imagine transferring that painful feeling or thought from you into the container. I imagine a stream of energy moving into the container and flowing out of me. Check your body and mind and notice if there’s any remnant of the pain still there. Keep moving it from you to the container until you no longer feel or notice the pain inside you. Notice how you feel now.
  • Store the pain away until you can deal with it: You can then imagine the container stored away in a safe place until you’re free to deal with the pain it contains.

This does work. I use it with myself and with my clients, and I invite you to see if it works for you as well. One thing to be aware of is that the pain can only be contained in the container. You will need to address it at some time. This method helps you deal with it on your terms rather than having it overwhelm your life.

I hope it works for you.


Quote of the Week

What we feel is a choice.”

– Piyush Shrivastav  


Feelings: handle them before they handle you


I hope you enjoyed this article. When you’re ready to take the next step on your life journey, book a free 20 min consultation with me.